Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Arctic plant ecophysiology and water source utilization in response to altered snow: isotopic (δ18O and δ2H) evidence for meltwater subsidies to deciduous shrubs

Oecologia. 2018 Aug;187(4):1009-1023. doi: 10.1007/s00442-018-4196-1. Epub 2018 Jun 28. Jespersen RG1, Leffler AJ2, Oberbauer SF3, Welker JM4,5. Author information 1 Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alaska Anchorage, Anchorage, AK, 99508, USA. 2 Department of Natural Resource Management, South Dakota State University, Brookings, SD, 57007, USA. 3 Department of Biological Sciences, Florida International University, Miami, FL, 33181, USA. 4 UArctic, Ecology and Genetics Research Unit, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland. 5 University of Alaska Anchorage, Anchorage, 99508, USA. Abstract Warming-linked woody shrub expansion in the Arctic has critical consequences for ecosystem processes and climate feedbacks. The snow-shrub interaction model has been widely implicated in observed Arctic shrub increases, yet equivocal experimental results regarding nutrient-related components of this model have highlighted the need for a consideration of the increased meltwater predicted in expanding shrub stands. We used a 22-year snow manipulation experiment to simultaneously address the unexplored role of snow meltwater in arctic plant ecophysiology and nutrient-related components of the snow-shrub hypothesis. We coupled measurements of leaf-level gas exchange and leaf tissue chemistry (%N and δ13C) with an analysis of stable isotopes (δ18O and δ2H) in soil water, precipitation, and stem water. In deeper snow areas photosynthesis, conductance, and leaf N increased and δ13C values decreased in the deciduous shrubs, Betula nana and Salix pulchra, and the graminoid, Eriophorum vaginatum, with the strongest treatment effects observed in deciduous shrubs, consistent with predictions of the snow-shrub hypothesis. We also found that deciduous shrubs, especially S. pulchra, obtained much of their water from snow melt early in the growing season (40-50%), more than either E. vaginatum or the evergreen shrub, Rhododendron tomentosum (Ledum palustre). This result provides the basis for adding a meltwater-focused feedback loop to the snow-shrub interaction model of shrub expansion in the Arctic. Our results highlight the critical role of winter snow in the ecophysiology of Arctic plants, particularly deciduous shrubs, and underline the importance of understanding how global warming will affect the Arctic winter snowpack. KEYWORDS: Alaska; Arctic precipitation; Ecohydrology; Nitrogen; Photosynthesis; Tundra; Water sources; δ13C; δ18O PMID: 29955988 DOI: 10.1007/s00442-018-4196-1